The Fresh Loaf

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The Italian Baker

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AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

The Italian Baker

I found this interesting book in the library recently, The Italian Baker by Carol Field. It covers not only bread but cakes, pastries and cookies and gives both weights and volume. It also gives methods in three ways, by hand, by mixer and by processor but they are quite well separated and easy to follow. The author lists many sayings and proverbs that express the Italians' way of expressing their sentiments, using bread as their common metaphor. A couple of my favorites: "Riuscire meglio a pane che a farina" To succeed more with the bread than with the flour ( to have more success than expected.) "Chiurugo come il pane, medico come il vino" Look for a surgeon like bread (young) and a doctor like wine (well aged.) Does anyone own this book? Any opinions on the recipes? A.

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subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

I own the book. The Italian Baker and Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice were the two books I purchased when I first became interested in artisan bread.

The Italian Baker, published 1985, was one of the first books on bread (and pastry) aimed at the US home baker that emphasized measuring ingredients by weight. It does show it's age as yeast is either fresh yeast or active dry yeast. (If you use instant dry yeast, slightly reduce the amount called for - by about 25%). In contrast to more recent artisan bread books, there is little emphasis on long fermentation techniques and no use of autolyse or the (beloved by TFL members) stretch-and-fold technique for developing gluten.

While somewhat dated, it has a wide range of hearth breads (including flavored and sweet breads) and a nice section on tarts, cakes and cookies. The recipes are well written and reasonably detailed. Its still a worthwhile addition to a baker's library.

The book is available on Amazon and has about 30 reader reviews, most favorable and some written within the last year or two. Guess its still a popular choice for many bakers.

Over time, my bread baking has evolved from mostly white flour to a heavier use of whole grain flours, so the book is less useful to me now than when I first purchased it. I always liked the section on pizza and focacce and, while not a cake baker, I liked the pastry and tart recipes also.

Most of the bread recipes call for unbleached all-purpose flour (? to approximate the "weaker" Italian flour ?). The unbleached all-purpose flour I especially liked for her breads was Heckers (Heckers is the brand name used in the northeast; the same flour is marketed as Ceresota in the midwest). A slightly stronger flour that also works well is Gold Medal's "Better for Bread" brand. (King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour is also a good choice for the hearth breads, but it has gotten too expensive for me. Other more affordable brands work just as well.)

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Many thanks for your input. I went ahead and ordered it, making sure that Floyd benefited in a tiny way. I figure I can stretch and fold as well as retarding and autolysing as long as I have the recipe. I have never seen Heckers or Ceresota flour here in WA, but I can get Gold Medal Better for Bread. All of the KA flours are $5.99 where I shop! Thanks again for your comments, A.

shericyng's picture
shericyng

Hi Annie   I have used your sourdough recipe w/ good success but wondered if you know what the hydration of the srarter is suppose to be in it? I figured 100% is that right?    Thanks

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Hi shericyng, do you mean what I call "Susan's Loaf", the one that is cooked under the ss mixing bowl for the first 20 minutes? I have never questioned the hydration, just use my regular starter which is refreshed : 1/4cup starter, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup bread flour. I'm ashamed to say I don't know what the hydration is with those amounts. Maybe someone who knows will chime in? Glad it works for you, A.